Greg Macafee

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Hamilton graduate Andersen and father take on U.S. Open

CHANDLER – Mason Andersen, a recent Hamilton High School graduate, will compete with some of the best golfers in the world Thursday at the U.S. Open.

Mason won’t be tackling this year’s star-studded field at Erin Hills Country Club in Wisconsin alone. At a tournament that concludes on Father’s Day, his dad, Richard, will be walking alongside him as his caddie.

“I’m no real caddie,” Richard said. “I’m just there to calm him down really or to keep him up. Sometimes he’ll make a couple bogeys to start a round and I have to remind him that ‘you’ve done this before. I’ve seen you start off with three bogeys and then follow it up with three birdies and you’re right back where you started. You can do this.’ ”

This isn’t the first time the father-son duo from Chandler will team up on the golf course. As Mason, who is about to begin his collegiate career at Arizona State, qualified for the Open, his father walked with him for the 36-hole qualifier. Last January, Richard celebrated his 47th birthday by caddying for his son as he attempted to qualify for the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Every time Mason has needed him, his father has been there to calm his jitters. The most recent opportunity came after just two holes of the sectional qualifier. Mason had started off his round with a birdie and an eagle and was 3 under after two holes.

“I was basically jumping up and down on the inside,” Mason said. “My dad was there and he was telling me to calm down and remember that we still had 34 holes left.”

He went on to finish with a low score of 64 on the first 18 holes, then tallied a 70 on his second 18 holes to find his name at the top of the leaderboard when he walked into the clubhouse. But it wasn’t official yet.

“I got in and I saw my name at the top and I really didn’t know because there was still some players out there with some holes left,” Mason said. “I knew 9 under had more than a chance to get in and I’m just sitting there thinking to myself, ‘This is the U.S. Open. You could be playing in the U.S. Open.’ ”

He finished second in Newport Beach, California, shooting a 9 under. Mason is one of 18 amateurs to qualify for the tournament and is just one of two 18-year-olds.

The journey to the U.S. Open began when Mason was about 11 and his father introduced him to the sport. Although they already shared time hunting and fishing, they also began sharing their love for golf.

Mason soon began playing competitively. In April of 2015, his current swing coach and mentor, Ben Weir, began to train him and admired his abilities.

“He’s got the perfect build for golf. He’s strong and a lot of people that are like that don’t have a lot of touch,” Weir said. “You either have one or the other. But he didn’t have much of a short game when he came to me. He was just overpowering courses to get to shoot his even par or couple under or couple over.”

Now, after almost two years of tutelage under Weir, an Arizona State alumnus who roomed with and learned from Phil Mickelson while at ASU, Mason’s game has evolved into something special. It’s evolved enough to where Weir believes his game has no weaknesses

“I mean, there really is none,” he said. “He’s got power. We built his swing so mechanically strong that even when he is nervous, it’s going to be healthy because he’s so mechanically sound there isn’t a shot he doesn’t know how to hit.”

Mason will be going up against a field that will have the likes of Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day, Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy, and others. On Thursday, Mason will tee-off with Derek Barron and Roman Robledo. But, the Chandler native will have his father by his side, which Weir believes will make a big difference.

“He’s just calm, cool and collected and he’s just easy-going and if Mason gets out of hand, he just snaps him back into shape. And Mason respects his father so much and there is such a deep love there and there is a love and respect there,” Weir said.

Time will tell how Mason and his father will fare at the U.S. Open. One thing is certain: They are experiencing a unique opportunity.

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